Mark Watches ‘Friday Night Lights’: S05E04 – Keep Looking

In the fourth episode of the fifth season of Friday Night Lights, Vince and Jess struggle with having a relationship amidst the football season while Vince copes with his life at home. Meanwhile, Tami faces more obstacles at school, Becky and Mindy unexpectedly become closer, and Buddy, Jr. is what. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.

THIS IS SUCH A GOOD SEASON SO FAR.

Buddy

THIS IS SO UNEXPECTED AND BIZARRE. And I’m kind of totally into it? Buddy Garrity’s journey over the course of Friday Night Lights has been fascinating to me because the writers took a character who was largely antagonistic, and they got us to sympathize with the struggles he faced. (While not ignoring that he is a deeply flawed character at the same time.) Here, the introduction of Buddy, Jr. into the storyline feels so new to me because it’s been so long since we’ve viewed Buddy through the lens of a father.

And what a struggle this is. At first, I thought that Buddy would be able to connect with his son because it was clear that Buddy, Jr was not interesting in the life the rest of his family was living in the Pacific Northwest. Buddy, Jr. belongs more in the culture of Texas than there, and it seemed like this would be an easy way for father and son to bond. Except then Buddy’s attitude begins to pop up, and these horrific things begin to come out of his mouth. Y’all, it’s Buddy who calls him out for all this shit. Which is INCREDIBLE to me because Buddy used to be the king of microaggressions, and now he’s telling his son not to call the school “ghetto” or make comments about Tami’s breasts and what has Buddy become? The role reversal is a sign that in some ways, Buddy has changed.

Of course, it’s interesting to compare what Buddy goes through with Vince and Ornette’s journey, since we’ve got two fathers desperate to bond with their sons for such different reasons. With Buddy, Jr. though, we’ve got a son who is so aggressively inappropriate. Whether he’s breaking into Buddy’s bar and drinking all the whiskey or stealing Buddy’s car and credit card, he’s completely apathetic about an attempt to behave. And it’s disturbing! Is this what his mother had to deal with? Because no fucking wonder she felt like she was in over her head! Buddy has a similar reaction. Despite how hard he’s trying to do the right thing, he can’t seem to keep his head above water. He’s always a few steps behind what his son does.

This all leads to that tense and uncomfortable confrontation outside the gas station. Yeah, I was so worried that Buddy would take his frustrations out on his son in a violent display of fury, but thankfully, he restrained himself, and asked the most gut-wrenching question: “How can I help you, son?” Like, in that one moment, Buddy becomes so vulnerable because he verbally admits that he has no idea what to do.

Football. I mean, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before. FOOTBALL. Buddy gets his son on the East Dillon team as a way to discipline him. I’ll be interested to see how this helps Buddy, Jr. (if it does at all) because of Buddy’s relationship with the game. Football has been the constant in Buddy’s life. What if it doesn’t work for his son?

Julie

Can we not? Can we not go down this path? I seriously have nothing substantive to say beyond this, I swear to you all. I am 100% not interested in this story, and I feel like I made my gripe with this writing choice clear in the last review. This is not new ground, it feels wildly out of character for Julie, and I want to see a story about her experience in college, not her decision to sleep with a married man.

No? NO.

Tami

The writers are not giving Tami an easy story here, and I appreciate it as a viewer. The solution to the problems with East Dillon (and specifically Epyck) are not going to come overnight. When Tami became head counselor, she inherited a long history of institutionalized problems with her job. And I think that the writers have done a fine job of refusing to demonize Principal Burnwell for his realism because they acknowledge that years of poor funding and lack of attention for East Dillon has left this place in shambles. Good intentions don’t make things work, and Tami has some of the most noble, honorable intentions I could imagine! We know she cares about this school, we can tell that she deeply wants to help Epyck, even if she stumbles along the way. But what does that accomplish? Certainly, she’s got the homework club up and running, and it’s a huge deal. The staff are slowly warming to her style and her ideas. And these are all wonderful things! But how can Tami fight the fact that the district just asked East Dillon to reduce their budget by another 25%? They’re already stretched so thin that the school can’t function as it should be, and now, things are going to be worse??? How can Tami help Epyck when she is part of a system that, unfortunately, has left her behind and ignored her? Tami is fighting against racism, classism, underfunding in urban schools, apathy, violenceā€¦ these are massive social oppressions at work here.

And yet, I love that Tami refuses to give up. Again, the show deliberately shows Tami’s failures and her misguided attempts at helping, but at the end of the day, she still wants to do her best. I don’t even know what the solution to helping Epyck is, but I’m glad that Tami hasn’t thrown in the towel yet.

Luke

I’m just really happy for him??? I wanted to state that because tears. Also, his flirting with Becky is really weird? I couldn’t tell if she was flattered or turned off by him saying that he was coming after her. Haha, is this a thing that straight people do? Because I have literally never experienced anything like that. EDUCATE ME, HETEROSEXUALS. EDUCATE ME.

Becky/Mindy

Well, it’s like my comments on Mindy were totally a way for me to RETROACTIVELY CHANGE THIS SHOW. Actually, it was necessary for the writers to portray Mindy as they did in the previous episode to set up what happens here. It happens! I am wrong about things! That’s the nature of this site because I can’t see the full picture when I am in the middle of something. SO WHOOPS. (Not that I shouldn’t try to analyze a plot as I see it, of course, but I also like being able to say that THIS IS CLEARLY NOT WHERE THE WRITING WAS HEADING.)

“Keep Looking” shows us how Mindy is able to develop sympathy for Becky after initially despising the fact that she is staying with them. Y’all, I am so into stories about sympathy like this because I think it’s something the world can use a whole lot more of

In this case, Mindy’s irritation with Becky’s presence is at all-time high. She resents her being there, and she doesn’t hide this. It isn’t until she’s treated poorly by her old boss at the strip club that she sees Becky’s incredible ability to empathize with those around her. It’s something we’ve seen from Becky before, and it’s not until Mindy is on the receiving end of Becky’s brilliance that she’s able to look at her in a different light. So when she drops off Becky at her mother’s house to return her to her father and Doreen, she’s witness to the chaos that is Becky’s life. Note that before, she was eager for Becky to get out of the house, but once she’s able to read the situation at the Sproles’ residence, she can tell that this is a toxic environment. And I think that’s a good way to describe the relationship that Becky has with these people. Doreen is selfish and can’t seem to express any concern that isn’t laced with anger and hatred. Becky’s father’s interest in his daughter is so shallow and misguided that he’s more interested in please Doreen than Becky. It’s just so bad, and then Mindy sees Becky’s father grab her, and Mindy is DONE WITH THESE PEOPLE. In an instant, she finally understands Becky. She understands Becky’s fear, her desire to be cheery and helpful, and her need to stay elsewhere.

I’m just happy that Mindy recognized that she needed to be both a role model and a friend to Becky. Yes, it was a difficult journey to this point, but she still made it there, and now Mindy can help keep Tim’s promise, too.

Oh gods, I miss Tim Riggins so much. šŸ™

Vince/Jess

I’ll repeat what I said regarding Tami’s storyline: I really appreciate that the writers are giving us such challenging stories instead of resolving things with a quick fix Vince’s journey in this season is fucking difficult, and there are a lot of things that he does or experiences that are viciously uncomfortable. And yet, through all of this, they don’t divorce him of his humanity or mischaracterize him.

I think you could say that because Vince is dealing with his issues with Jess and his father at the exact same time, they bleed into one another. I don’t know that his reaction to Jess’s presence in the locker room would be so inappropriate if he wasn’t also struggling with his father’s presence in his life. Truthfully, both issues are related because they’re about Vince dealing with his own ego.

Look, I love Vince Howard, and he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite characters on this show, along with Jess. But his treatment of Jess is deplorable and unfair, and it worries me that he won’t recognize this in time. I wouldn’t be surprised if this lead to Jess splitting from Vince because he refuses to value her opinion in all of this. He makes her job as Equipment Manager about him instead of taking into account why she wants the position. Hell, she demonstrated multiple times that she could handle the gross behavior of the other teammates all on her own, but Vince has this misguided sense of macho protection over Jess, and he simply refuses to let it go.

If you accept that, then I think you can see how he has the same issue with his mother. He so desperately wants to protect her from one man, his father and her husband, that he’ll hurt her in the process. Make no mistake about it: Vince hurts both Jess and Regina in this episode. He dismisses Jess’s desires. He makes Regina feel awful for ever forgiving Ornette, despite that this is her goddamn right! So here’s my hope: his confrontation of Ornette at the end of the episode is a step towards acceptance. I get that he may not want Ornette in his life, and it’s fair that Vince should get the choice to not forgive his father. But perhaps he knows that he can’t stop his mother and his father from seeing one another, so he instead chooses to make his father promise not to hurt them all again.

Can a person change? I think this show has demonstrated that it’s entirely possible, and I’d say the writers have done this before in believable ways. (Think how much Tim Riggins or Jason Street or Tyra Collette or Smash Williams changed since the first episode. My babies.) There’s hope yet for Ornette, and I hope he comes through. There’s hope for Vince, too, because THE TMU COACHES PULL HIM INTO A PRIVATE MEETING DURING LUKE’S TOUR OF THE CAMPUS AND I AM ALREADY CRYING OH MY GOD. I love this show so much.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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